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Lots of reaction to yesterday’s coverage of the Wall Street Journal piece detailing Wal-Mart’s extensive surveillance efforts over the years.

MNB user Joe Fraioli wrote:

When you play dirty and do the wrong thing time and time again paranoia soon follows. Of course they are concerned what devious things their employees may be up to because the guilty always feel that everyone else is just like them.

MNB user Mike Griswold wrote:

This is unbelievable. Twenty people employed to snoop cyberspace looking for stuff. I would love the see the budget appropriated to that department. Talk about skunk works. It would not surprise me if hall passes were needed to get to the bathroom.

Another member of the MNB community wrote:

”Threat Research and Analysis Group.” I am reminded of the old labor reference to company “guards” as TROGlodytes, which my dictionary defines 2) a reclusive, reactionary, or brutish person. If nothing else, we have to enjoy their choice of title that allows us to contemplate a new acronym.

Another MNB user disagreed with our commentary:

What Wal-Mart is doing is not unusual. It is just that they enforce it more rigorously. This kind of work is done at many large CPG companies as well, and I've worked at several who have the same policies and principles.

Sounds to me as if the fired employee has a grudge. I wish people would lay off Wal-Mart.

Maybe in this case the fired employee is right to bear a grudge. After all, while he may have crossed the line, it strikes us that the line was at best fuzzy in Bentonville, and that he is a product of the culture down there. The word “scapegoat” comes to mind.

MNB user John C. Patzke wrote:

Unfortunately employees steal information using electronic tools and unfortunately employers are being sued by the public for failing to adequately monitor their employees' use of company electronic tools. It seems to me that it is difficult to be critical of Wal-Mart for protecting itself against these situations. Again, I guess the best message to employees is simple: don't use company electronic equipment for matters you wish to keep private. Go home or to the library and use that equipment.

Another MNB user wrote:

The Wal-Mart Spying Story is on the button but perhaps criticism should be muted.

As a former employee competing with this Goliath I'm not a friend of theirs but I do tire of the constant criticism directed their way. In this case I also recognize they have a right, indeed an absolute obligation, to protect their property, real or intellectual. Also, it should be noted their sheer size, success, and exposure make them especially vulnerable to such losses.

A challenge of security is being effective without stumbling into the shadow world of excess, particularly in regards to any infringements on personal rights or privacy. However, such errors will happen and will always be a problem. In such cases the involved organization should deal with them quickly and firmly.... very firmly.

I suspect Wal-Mart has already dealt with any problems in this area of electronic monitoring, especially with everyone watching. However, from the MNB report it doesn't appear too many real shadows actually exist. And, if the company has a policy statement about monitoring that is clear to and understood by all employees they should continue these strong security measures.

Wal-Mart has a lot to protect and they can do so in a fair and reasoned manner. Other than any excesses above, this program is not spying it is simply good business... shadows or not.

Funny that you think that not too many shadows exist with this story. Because our reading makes us think that this thing is all shadows.

MNB user Cliff Balzer wrote:

I agree with your take that "paranoia and suspicion...(is) over the edge." What is encouraging is that there are a number of Tier-One retailers "where loyalty is engendered through mutual respect."

These retailers are the same ones who are known for good service, good selection and good financial performance. As I've noted in other e-mails, these Tier-One Retailers focus on the workplace the workforce and understand that every store is a unique workplace.

Here are some of these Tier-One Retailers: Wegmans, Stew Leonard's, Publix, Nordstrom, REI, Timberland, Costco, and Whole Foods.

It is hard to imagine any of these retailers focusing on the kind of corporate surveillance efforts that Wal-Mart was obsessed with.

Interestingly, one MNB user read the surveillance story and connected it to another Wal-Mart story that’s been in the headlines:

As much as I agree with competition (Wal-Mart getting into the banking business) one has to wonder if Wal-Mart can be trusted with critical information one would provide in the mainstream banking business?

Good point. We may have to rethink our support of Wal-Mart’s financial services strategy.
KC's View: